ELGAR Falstaff; Froissart – Davis
As digital Falstaffs go, Sir Andrew Davis’s all-too-swiftly deleted 1995 account with the BBC SO remains arguably the front-runner. If both Elgar himself and Barbirolli impart the greater vulnerability and compassion to the illimitably moving closing pages, the irresistible symphonic current coursing through Davis’s meticulously observant conception provides ample compensation. The orchestral playing is splendid, the recording glowingly realistic (the experienced Keener/Faulkner production team working in one of their favourite haunts, St Augustine’s in Kilburn). The couplings are memorable, too. In Froissart Davis achieves an acutely perceptive balance between thrusting chivalry and wistful introspection (how tenderly he moulds Elgar’s lyrical secondary material). The Romance for bassoon and orchestra comes off beautifully, as does the Funeral March from Grania and Diarmid (surely one of Elgar’s noblest utterances). At its new, ludicrously low price, not to be missed.